© UNICEF/UN010930/Hing – UNICEF staff and volunteers pack WASH kits (water, sanitation and hygiene kits) and school supplies at UNICEF’s warehouse in Suva, Fiji.
SUVA/ HONG KONG, 22 February 2016 – Less than 36 hours after Cyclone Winston devastated Fiji, UNICEF Pacific has begun assisting those most affected, in partnership with the Government of Fiji. UNICEF today began to distribute pre-positioned emergency supplies in Fiji, with a focus on distribution to worst-affected communities.
UNICEF Pacific Deputy Representative, Isabelle Austin, said “In the immediate aftermath of a disaster such as a cyclone, UNICEF’s first priority is to ensure the protection and wellbeing of the most vulnerable, including children, pregnant women and new mothers. Our thoughts are with those most-affected communities, many of whom have lost everything and are now beginning to pick up the pieces. UNICEF is working around the clock preparing supplies for transport and distribution through the Government of Fiji, which is providing extremely strong leadership on this response. UNICEF will also continue to assist the Government with rapid assessments that will take some time to fully complete given the incredible scale and complexity of this disaster.
“UNICEF is committed to helping children and families as they begin to rebuild their lives following the most severe cyclone in Fiji’s history. UNICEF will actively support the Fiji Government to lead a rapid and coordinated response, with a focus on water and sanitation, education, nutrition and child protection. We will continue to work closely with Government and other partners to ensure a coordinated response that will support and complement the Government’s efforts,” added Ms. Austin.
Children, families and communities across Fiji will require extensive support to meet growing and urgent needs around water, sanitation and hygiene, including the provision of water containers, purification tablets, soap and temporary sanitation facilities.
Following a disaster such as a cyclone, issues related to health are always of paramount concern due to the presence of stagnant water which can increase the risk of waterborne diseases and virus-carrying mosquitoes.
Education needs are also a priority as many schools have been destroyed or are currently being used as shelters. To prevent interruptions to children’s education, UNICEF will provide tents to act as temporary classrooms and ‘School-in-a-box’ kits that have enough materials to ensure children can get back to school quickly.
Ms Austin added, “This most recent cyclone season has been exacerbated further due to the extreme impacts of the El Niño cycle we are currently experiencing. Weather experts had widely predicted this cyclone season would be more intense than usual. Our colleagues across the region have been working for months to ensure UNICEF is as prepared as possible to respond immediately to disasters such as the one that has devastated Fiji.
“Before Cyclone Winston reached Fiji, UNICEF was actively sharing emergency preparedness messages encouraging people to be as prepared as possible. We are appealing for HK$39 million (US$5 million) to continue to work with communities across the country to help them recover from this national tragedy.”